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New mask ordinance in the works for Cape Coral

By Staff | Jul 9, 2020

A Cape Coral council member plans to propose a new mask ordinance that would provide incentives to business that require face coverings through the pandemic.

Councilmember Jessica Cosden said Thursday she plans to draft a new ordinance designed to encourage business owners to deny service to those not wearing a mask.

Cosden said her proposal, which she brought up at the tail of Monday’s Special meeting at which the Cape Coral City Council rejected a mask mandate ordinance, is still on the drawing board. It will, however, be business-based, something which, to her knowledge, has not been tried before.

“My idea is to incentivize businesses that mandate masks for their employees and patrons. I am looking at what we can do,” Cosden said. “No other city has done anything like this. Usually I look at other cities to see what they’ve done, but we’re starting from scratch here.”

Cosden said a reduction in the public service tax or rebates are something they are looking into. The program would be voluntary, which Cosden believes could appease the anti-mask crowd.

“Some well-known businesses like Costco are requiring masks for the employees and patrons. If you want to shop there, wear a mask. If not, go somewhere else,” Cosden said. “I can see people being against this, but the big word is ‘voluntary’ and that’s what all these people were pushing for.”

An emergency ordinance to require masks in certain indoor locations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic was defeated 5-3 Monday following several hours of public input, with the vast majority voicing opposition.

Cosden voted Monday against the ordinance, but said she does believe masks help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and would continue to wear one publicly, adding she was sad such a measure was so controversial.

“I wear my mask to protect you and I don’t want to go back to a lockdown situation and I’m concerned we’re heading in that direction,” Cosden said during Monday’s meeting.

This ordinance would go through the normal channels to adoption, Cosden said, and would like to have a draft ready to go for the introduction during council’s regular meeting on July 20, followed by a public hearing on July 27.

Unlike the emergency ordinance, which required six votes for passage, this ordinance would require a simple majority of the eight-member board.

As far as cost, that would be up to the city council, Cosden said, but the boost provided could offset that.

“In the end, it will help businesses because it will not only keep their employees and patrons safe but it will be an economic boost for the businesses if we have an incentive,” Cosden said.